It has happened again. I have been introduced to a lovely couple, similar in age to myself, and asked to help them out of a mess.
These trusting people had been clients of another local firm of accountants for several years and firmly believed they were being given a full professional service. However, even they realized something was wrong when [private_basic]the accountants messed them about last year and sent them not one, nor two, but three bills for work done amounting to quadruple their previous charge. The couple were in a dilemma. Do we stick with these accountants and try to argue about the fees or change accountants – if so to whom and will they be any different? The stress built over christmas and the wife, who was in charge of the books, fell into a depression and so even the regular paperwork was left. It was a really horrible position for them and when they started getting tax demands for ridiculous sums, they realized the filing deadline had passed in January 2009 and now they were in a real mess.
They finally talked about their problems with a friend who was already a client of mine. He immediately suggested they ring me and start to pick themselves up and get sorted.
The full horror of the breakdown of the accountant/client relationship became clear when I went through their bookkeeping. I really could not believe the quality of work I saw when I went through the accounts for year ended 31st March 2007. Things had been missed, loans and a major business bank account had not been included, accruals for their own accounts fee and the PAYE/NIC due at the year end but not paid until after had been overlooked. Instead of talking to the couple and asking them why the books for the year ended 31st March 2008 had not been delivered for the accounts and Self Assessment to be prepared, the accountants did nothing and allowed a huge estimated tax demand to be issued, remain unchallenged and then denied all knowledge of it when I challenged them. A real professional service – not.
Anyway, these matters are now being resolved and the couple are very thankful they listened to their friend and found a new accountant.
There is a moral to this post. Even if you have had the same accountant for years, you should be able to trust them to always act in your best interests, but they don’t always – they do mostly but they (we) are human too – not machines and not infalible. So, be in touch with your accountant 3 or 4 times a year and keep your relationship current. Talk about tax planning, business trends, bookkeeping issues, grants, banks, VAT worries, planning your will – in fact about anything relating to your business that you want to ask advice about.
The truth is that accountants, both good and bad, deal with lots of different businesses and so have a unique overview of trends, marketing ideas that work, current issues affecting local businesses as well as their own areas of accounts and tax. They are a huge mine of information and the more regularly you talk, the more useful they can be. Don’t worry about the cost – any accountant worth his/her salt will always repay your investment in them at least 3 fold or more.
I love to talk – ask anyone I deal with – but if you find your accountant reluctant to chat candidly with you about any issue – perhaps you should look for one that will. If you feel for any reason whatsoever that your relationship with your accountant is breaking down, don’t wait, or bury your head in the sand, grip the tax demand or their bill and talk to them immediately to find out what is going on. Failure to act, as the couple above found out to their cost, can be an expensive mistake.
You can always call me for a no-obligation chat on 0800 047 0731 if you are at all worried.